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January 10, 2023

An Eagles fan's guide to NFL Wild Card Weekend

Everything Eagles fans need to know about the opening of the NFL playoffs.

The first weekend of March Madness is the most fun time of the year for tons of sports fans. Not me. My crown jewel is NFL Wild Card Weekend. Saturday night playoff football? Three do-or-die games with the league's best teams on Sunday? Having all of that continue until Monday night too? I love it. 

This is even better when the Eagles are on a bye. They won't play until next weekend, allowing Philadelphians to soak things up in a stress-free environment (at least until Dallas plays...), watch six high-octane playoff games, grub on some wings and enjoy your drink of choice. What more could you ask for in life?

Before Saturday afternoon rolls around, here's a guide for Eagles fans on what to watch for this weekend, the big names and how it could all impact the Birds...

The matchups

Let's get the schedule out of the way:

lines via DraftKings Sportsbook

• Saturday, 4:30 p.m., FOX

No. 7 seed Seahawks (9-8) at No. 2 seed 49ers (13-4)

Line: 49ers -10

• Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

No. 5 seed Chargers (10-7) at No. 4 seed Jaguars (9-8)

Line: Chargers -1

• Sunday, 1:00 p.m., CBS

No. 7 seed Dolphins (9-8) at No. 2 seed Bills (13-3)

Line: Bills -10.5

• Sunday, 4:30 p.m., FOX

No. 6 seed Giants (9-7-1) at No. 3 seed Vikings (13-4)

Line: Vikings -3

• Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

No. 6. seed Ravens (10-7) at No. 3 seed Bengals (12-4)

Line: Bengals -6.5

• Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

No. 5 Cowboys (12-5) at No. 4 Buccaneers (8-9)

Line: Cowboys -2.5

Big Names

Here are people of interest for Eagles fans:

• The obvious one is Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson, of course, led the Eagles to the first-ever Super Bowl win in 2017. In his first year in Jacksonville, he changed a team that had the NFL's worst record in back-to-back seasons, in shambles after the toxic culture former coach Urban Meyer created in 2021. Pederson has quarterback Trevor Lawrence living up to his first-overall pick promise, winning the AFC South along the way.

Dougie P is in a familiar situation: he's an underdog in a playoff game. In six career playoff games, Pederson has been an underdog in five of them, improbably going 4-1 along the way. His teams are 5-0 against the spread in all of them. Count out Pederson at your own risk. He's been proving people wrong ever since he was proclaimed the worst head coaching hire in the league in decades. 

The Chargers allowed the seventh-most passing yards of any team in the NFL in 2022. I'd keep an eye on Lawrence feeding wideout Christian Kirk, who's coming off an 1,108-yard regular season at age 26. 

If Pederson beats Los Angeles, three people who've been the head coach of the Eagles will be alive in the divisional round: Pederson, Kansas City's Andy Reid and, duh, Nick Sirianni. A Reid-Pederson matchup next week would make for a hell of a storyline. 

Just throwing it out there... I put a future on an Eagles-Jaguars Super Bowl on January 1 at +900. 

• Ah, the Cowboys, who come into the postseason with QB Dak Prescott playing his worst football ever. Prescott tossed 15 interceptions this season, the top mark in the NFL despite only playing in 12 games. Yikes. Prescott also had the lowest yards per pass attempt (7.3) of his pro career. Not great!

Prescott has 1-3 record in postseason games. As road favorites coming off a 12-win season, expectations will be high, as they always are for the Cowboys, as the national media goes gaga over them and their non-Texas-based fan base gets lost in the sauce of their never-ending hype machine. 

The Bucs' defense isn't as good as it was during the last two years, but Prescott launching a head-scratching, back-breaking pick-6 in the fourth quarter is on the table and would have Eagles fans in a frenzy. 

• Speaking of Tampa Bay, Tom Brady could be playing his final NFL game on Monday. For the first time, Brady has resembled something more human than machine on the football field. Brady never had a losing record in a season before 2022. This is uncharted territory, as is being a home underdog. This postseason feels like the end of the road. 

Brady, who's 2-1 in his life against the Eagles in the playoffs, pulling off one last big win against Dallas of all teams would put a bow on what should be a great football weekend (at least for Eagles fans). 

• Are we ready for a world in which Giants QB Daniel Jones has won a playoff game? Minnesota is only a three-point home favorite against New York and the Giants might be the buzziest upset team of the Wild Card round. The Giants should give Jones a monster contract extension if he wins this one. Philly would love that!


Quick notes on teams with some history against the Eagles...

Cowboys: Another playoff burnout would be hilarious. Conversely, a Cowboys-Eagles playoff game in Philly would be electric with the week-long buildup. 

Giants: New York advancing further in the postseason than Dallas would be equally hilarious. 

Vikings: An NFC Championship Game rematch with Minnesota at Lincoln Financial Field would be glorious, but I can't see Kirk Cousins and co. getting it together to be a game away from the Super Bowl. 

Buccaneers: Tampa eliminated the Eagles in the Wild Card round last year, crushing the Birds 31-15. That's without mentioning the ghosts of 2002 NFC Championship Game. Not a lot to love in this Cowboys-Bucs game! 

Potential Opponents

There are four possible teams the Eagles could host in the divisional round on January 21 or 22: Seattle, Dallas, New York or Tampa Bay. Some odds on who the Birds would face:

If you're an Eagles fan, you should be rooting for the Seahawks and Giants. The Birds will play the lowest remaining seed in the NFC playoffs. Those two teams are very beatable. Are you really scared of Geno Smith or Jones coming to the Linc in January? Of course not. You shouldn't be. 

The Bucs have stunk this year, winning a terrible NFC South while being under .500, but Brady is Brady no matter how different he may have looked this regular season. The Cowboys, to me, are the third-best NFC team standing after the Eagles and 49ers. A meeting with Dallas next week would be tough, but certainly winnable with a healthier Jalen Hurts and possibly Lane Johnson back on the field. 


My sure-to-be-wrong picks:

• 49ers over Seahawks 

• Jaguars over Chargers

• Bills over Dolphins

• Giants over Vikings

• Bengals over Ravens

• Buccaneers over Cowboys

That would leave the Eagles playing the Giants, with that game likely coming on Saturday given that the league wouldn't want the Bucs playing on super-short rest going from a Monday night game to a Saturday one. 

Live it up and then get ready to be locked in next week for the Birds. 

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